Daphne on Display, Part Two

If you are a lover of fashion, a student of fashion – or just plain curious about beautiful things, you must make your way to the Museum at FIT in NYC, before January 7th. That’s when the Daphne Guinness exhibition currently being shown at the Museum, takes a final bow.

I took in the exhibition and attended the Fashion Icons & Insiders Symposium hosted by FIT back in November and have been sharing my thoughts on both. Yesterday, in part one, I wrote about three of the themes the exhibition is curated around – Armor, Evening Chic and Sparkle. In today’s post, I’ll cover the remaining three.

One thing we can never accuse Ms. Guinness of being, is boring. The next grouping of clothes in the show, were proof positive that the woman isn’t beige.

“Fashion today is becoming more beige.

By that I mean, everyone and everything is starting to look the same –

almost like a Mao uniform.

We should be flying the flag for individuality.”

– Daphne Guinness

What I call drama was labelled Exoticism in the show, and included (more) kimono sleeves, a Lagerfeld fur-trimmed coat, a Rick Owens coat (worn backwards), with a tangled mélange of  metal worn as a necklace, in front.

The Exoticism display at the Daphne Guinness Exhibit at the Museum at FIT on Exshoesme.com
A few examples from the Exoticism grouping, including the Givenchy by McQueen kimono coat. {Photo by Jimi Celeste.}
Jun Takahasi for Undercover Skull Dress on Exshoesme.com
I’ve never been into the whole skull thing that everyone does – but this dress? This dress is a need.

There was also a need to hold on to the wall behind me – as I took in the Jun Takahashi for Undercover skull dress – made from layers of felt skull cut-outs.

“I don’t do event dressing, because every day is an event.”

– Daphne Guinness

The statement above says so much about the exhibit as a whole. While the pieces throughout are collectible, Daphne is not precious about wearing them out – and that includes looking Chic in daylight hours, too. Whether it’s Chanel bell sleeves, a simple (ha!) black, Chanel suit, Alaïa eyelets or Pugh’s pointed shoulders – it’s all dandy for day or night.

The Chic display at the Daphne Guinness Exhibit at the Museum at FIT on Exshoesme.com
Chic, on display. {Photo by Jimi Celeste.}

And it’s all Dandy in black and white, too – the last of the themes in the show. You will nod your head as you walk through – ah yes, the black and white tailored details you see on Daphne so often. She and I are kindred spirits in many ways – I have never met a black jacket and white shirt ensemble I didn’t love.

The Dandyism display at the Daphne Guinness Exhibit at the Museum at FIT on Exshoesme.com
Dandyism was my favourite section, natch. {Photo by Jimi Celeste.}

“In my next life, I’ll be a tailor.”

– Daphne Guinness

Guinness has “an absolute passion for men’s clothes” and credits her “love of literature – Oscar Wilde, Proust” for it.

“Plus, I didn’t get to go to Eton! I’ve always liked men’s tailoring. I am obsessed with architecture in all its forms and the human body in space. The way a jacket is constructed is in architecture. I like the idea of being androgynous, of being able to be in a suit,” she told an intimate gathering of fashion insiders, attending the Symposium.

The Dandyism display 2 at the Daphne Guinness Exhibit at the Museum at FIT on Exshoesme.com
Off the cuff and off the hook. {Photo by Jimi Celeste.}

Here, one gasps over McQueen’s tail coat – to choose it or Dior’s tail coat? Daphne got them both!

There is also a Dior military bolero jacket and a McQueen ruffled vest with Indian embroidery and a Huntsman & Sons tuxedo. And then there is the Lacroix indigo evening dress, worn with a weighty cape of McQueen’s silver eagles, perched upon the shoulders. Very Poe-etic.

Daphne Guinness speaking at the Fashion Icons and Insiders Symposium at FIT in November 2011. Photo by Jyotika Malhotra on Exshoesme.com
Daphne, speaking about carrying the weight of fashion upon her shoulders. {Photo by Jyotika Malhotra.}

There is poetry throughout the show, really. It is in the jewels worn in unusual places – a brooch on an inner sleeve, a back-draped pendant. It is in the trailing ribbons. It is spoken in the contrasts of chiffon and metal and in the armor and romantic gowns one needs to conquer modern-day reality.

There is depth to this show and one realizes it in so many such details. This is more than just clothes in a room, more than just clothes taken out of someone’s closet. Each accessory, each piece tells us something about the woman who owns them – you can see her love of philosophy, of history, of poetry, of art, here.

It is in the strategic acquisition of these key pieces that were made by designers big and small, from the right collections from these designers. And I mean strategic not in a business-y way as to acquire things that would appreciate in value. These pieces were bought for love – and Daphne’s eye is flawless in that regard. She has curated this collection well before the seed of the idea to host it in a museum was planted in anyone’s mind. She is a natural curator.

Approaching the end of her hour chat (surely with relief), Guinness said, “I’ve never thought of myself as a beautiful person. I like beautiful things.”

Daphne Guinness at the FIT Symposium photographed by Jyotika Malhotra of Exshoesme.com November 2011
She is flawless in person.

This collection of clothes will take the breath from your lungs, the words from your lips, and leave you with a longing – not just for these beautiful things – but for the heart, the soul, the spirit, the intangible, infallible love behind them. There is love in the way these pieces were designed, in the way they were made, worn and displayed.

That is what I left the room with – an overwhelming feeling of love.

If there were ever a doubt that fashion is art, it was put to rest in a bed of feathers and beads.

“What draws me to fashion is art. This exhibition is done for the benefit of those out here,

students or otherwise, who share this love.”

– Daphne Guinness

Get thee to the corner of 7th and West 27th before it goes back inside Daphne’s New York and London closets!

Daphne Guinness and Valerie Steele at the Fashion Icons and Insiders Symposium at FIT in November 2011. Photo by Jyotika Malhotra on Exshoesme.com.
Steele and Guinness: were they even there at all….floating away in their fab tights… {Photo by Jyotika Malhotra.}

Quotes in blue are taken directly from the exhibition. All others are from my notes at the Fashion Icons & Insiders Symposium.

Images: All photos, as credited. Skull dress on display at the 2010 MoMu exhibit (in Belgium) entitled  Masters of Black in Fashion & Costume image from http://www.stylezeitgeist.com. Jimi Celeste photos are © Patrick McMullan, and provided courtesy of FIT.  All others are by yours truly – please be kind enough to provide credit and link back if you are using them on your site. Thanks.

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